Wednesday, 4 October 2017

New Books on my Radar!


Just a selection of my most-anticipated upcoming releases!

 Added any must-have books to your wish list lately? 

Let me know in comments!

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Young Adult Fiction



Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard || Release date: February 2018


When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild - what am I? 


Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.


******



This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi || Release date: February 2018


Penny loves her small-town Florida life—including her boyfriend, Logan, whom everyone expects her to marry. And when she lands a scholarship to the prestigious theater camp of her dreams to explore her love of acting, it’s the beginning of a summer that will change her life. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined. 

Lauren Gibaldi tells the story of a transformative summer for a girl who discovers just how wide the world really is and that maybe the life everyone expects her to lead may not be the one she was meant to have.


*****



Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett || Release date: April 2018


In this romantic dramedy from the author of Alex, Approximately, a teen girl’s way-too-ordinary life is driven off the beaten path when she’s abandoned in the wilderness with her worst adversary—the boy who broke her heart.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

*****



The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse || Release date: June 2018

Aubrey and Rae have been planning their trip around Europe practically from the moment they became BFFs in primary school. And, now, it ought to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university.

But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. There's Jonah, Aubrey's seemingly perfect boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. And there's Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there's no hope because Clara is definitely into guys, not girls.

Five friends. Ten days. Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Barcelona. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be happening love story, or two ... because how could there not be?

*****



Adult Fiction



The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch || Release date: Nov. 2017


From the mega-bestselling author of White Oleander and Paint It Black, a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman.

St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times. This is the epic, mesmerizing story of one indomitable woman's journey through some of the most dramatic events of the last century.


*****


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn || Release date: January 2018


Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times...and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenage son--the perfect family. But when gazing out her window one night, Anna sees something she shouldn’t. Her world begins to crumble, and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.


*****


The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd || Release date: January 2018


A young schoolteacher falls for a man on Death Row whom she believes is falsely accused, only to begin wondering after their marriage – and his release.

Twenty years ago Dennis Danson was arrested for the brutal murder of Holly Michaels in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a Making a Murderer-style true crime documentary that’s taking the world by storm – the filmmakers are whipping up a frenzy of coverage to uncover the truth and free the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

Samantha may be thousands of miles away in Britain, but she is as invested in Dennis’s case as any of his lawyers. Perhaps even more so, as her letters to the convicted killer grow ever more intimate. Soon she is leaving her life behind to marry Danson and campaign, as his wife, for his release.

But when the campaign is successful, and Dennis is freed, events begin to suggest that he may not be so innocent after all. How many girls went missing in Red River, and what does Dennis really know?
 

*****


The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton || Release date: Feb. 2018


A brilliantly original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent: Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...
 

*****

Monday, 2 October 2017

Book Review: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.




Product details:
Publisher:  Pan Macmillan.
Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: October 5th 2017.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Best known for her dreamy debut Anna and the French Kiss, popular contemporary YA author Stephanie Perkins turns her hand to horror in There’s Someone Inside Your House, with mixed results.  In this book, which sees high school students stalked by a depraved killer, Perkins equates bloody with scary, so while gore scores high, there is little in the way of suspense or tension and not so much as a sniff of a killer twist to catch the reader off guard.  As someone who has read and enjoyed much of Perkins’ previous works and is also a fan of the horror genre, it’s no exaggeration to stay that There’s Someone Inside Your House was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, but the truth is I found this one tough going at times ---and not only because I prefer a slow-burn thriller to a bloody gore fest. 

Makani Young has been living in rural Nebraska, where football rules and corn is king, for little over a year when the murders begin.  A transfer from Hawaii, Makani moved to live with her grandmother at the height of her parents’ acrimonious divorce. At least that’s the official story.  As for the actual truth behind Makani’s arrival in Nebraska, well that’s something so terrible that Makani is willing to take to her grave: sooner rather than later if the high-school slasher has anything to do with it. 

So, when we meet Makani students are dropping like flies; throats slashed to bits and brains sliced to ribbons. Yum.  Initially, Makani and her snarky group of friends are not too concerned about the murders, preferring to gossip about their dead contemporaries rather than showing any type of genuine concern for the victims or their families. Yeah. I guess you could say that I didn’t really warm to Makani and friends.  Let’s just say if Makani’s so-snarky-it-hurts friend Alex was next up on the killers’ hit list, it really wouldn’t have bothered me at all. As for Makani, well she’s got other things on her mind, important things like her crush on edgy loner Ollie, who wears a lot of black and has hot pink hair. In rural Nebraska, or anywhere else in the world, Ollie stands out from the crowd - and Makani is hot for that.  However, since Ollie is a little different from the rest and has a tragic backstory to boot, Makani’s friends immediately peg him as the serial killer.  See, I told you they were a great bunch!

Ollie serves as a very willing love interest but he’s also a source of information as his older brother is a local cop who regularly leaves his case files lying open on the kitchen table. Cue gruesome descriptions of murder victims as Makani and Ollie decide to sneak a peek in between hook-ups. Whatever turns you on!  Makani and Ollie might be loved up, but let’s not forget there’s a killer on the loose, and he’s moving in on Makani. That’s right, our girl is next up on the killer’s hit list. But why? Does this have to do with Makani’s deep, dark secret? What is the motive behind the killings? That is the question. Unlike the killer reveal, which comes early on in the story, it’s the motive behind the killings that’s meant to keep readers guessing.  The actual motive behind the killings? Well, that was a let-down.  The cornfields were creepy, though.  You just know very bad things are going to happen when cornfields and horror combine.

I really, really, really wanted to like There’s Someone Inside Your House, but overall I have to say it was a miss for me.  If you like gruesome slasher-flicks where gore is everything, then maybe this one is for you.  As for me, I was hoping that the ‘motive reveal’ would save this somewhat lacklustre tale, but on that count, this one really didn’t come through for me.  Some you win, some you lose, I guess. 


P.S: I did think the stop-start romance between Makani and Ollie was cute in a very real and awkward wires-crossed kind of way. I just don’t think that should have been my favourite part of this horror show, y’know?

Friday, 11 August 2017

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager.




Product details:
Publisher:  Ebury Press.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: July 13th 2017.
Rating: 4  out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead...

They were the victims of separate massacres. Three strangers bound by similar traumas grouped together by the press.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.



 If you’re a horror movie fan, then you’re already familiar with the concept of the “final girl.” Like Laurie Strode in Halloween and Sidney Prescott in Scream, the final girl is the sole survivor of a massacre that sees all her friends –and possibly her love interest- meet a gruesome end. She’s a slasher-flick survivor:  the only person to face the killer and live to tell the tale. Unfortunately for final girls, lightening often strikes twice, and when that killer resurfaces (often rising from the presumed-dead) to kill again, nobody is safe. Just ask Nancy Thompson. Oh wait, you can’t. Freddy Krueger killed her in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  RIP Nancy. You fought Freddy Krueger and won.  Until you didn’t. 

Quincy Carpenter is a final girl. But you’d never know it to look at her. Ten years on from the cabin-in-the-woods bloodbath that saw a bunch of her college friends die at the hands of a knife-wielding maniac, Quincy has moved on with her life. The owner of a popular baking blog, Quincy lives comfortably on the Upper West Side with her lawyer boyfriend.  How does Quincy carry on as normal after everything that’s happened? Well, there’s Xanax. There’s also the fact that Quincy doesn’t actually remember anything about the worst night of her life. She remembers hanging out with her friends at the cabin, sure. She remembers the aftermath too, when she ran through the woods to safety. But everything that happened in between? Quincy’s got nothing.

Though she doesn’t remember what happened on that night of horror in the woods, Quincy at least knows that the maniac who killed all of her friends, is dead.  She saw him die with her very own eyes.  But when another final girl, Lisa Milner, dies of an apparent suicide, Quincy is spooked. Is there a “final girls” killer on the loose? Fellow final girl, Samantha Boyd, is convinced something is amiss.   After all, Lisa did everything in her power to survive the sorority bloodbath that gave her “final girl” status. So why take her own life? It just doesn’t make sense. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s sequel time! And this one’s been ten years in the making.

One of the most buzzed about thrillers of 2017, with fans that include none other than Stephen King, Final Girls is a real edge-of-your-seat stuff, a true page-turner that’ll keep you reading late into the night, even though your home alone and almost too scared to read on.  Or maybe that’s just me. Final Girls is also a whole lot of fun; a whole lot of very sick and twisted fun. If you love a good slasher-flick, then you’ll love this.  It kept me guessing all the way through too.    I suspected everyone. Everyone.  I only figured out what was actually going on right before the final reveal. OK, maybe a couple of chapters before the reveal. I’m pretty disappointed with myself on that score.  I mean, I grew up on horror movies. I really should know better.

One thing I loved about Final Girls is that we get to take a step right back in time to Quincy’s night from hell ten years previously. The night she became a “final girl”.  Yeah, we get to see it all. And let me tell you it’s hard to forget. So why doesn’t Quincy remember anything about that night? And what does it mean for her survival now that the past she tried to forget has come back to haunt her? Will this final girl live to see another day? Or does her time end now?



In short: Final Girls is a whole lot of sick and twisted page-turning fun. Read it if you love a good horror flick. On that note, though I haven’t heard of any movie deal, I would love to see this one on the big screen!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Book Review: Last Seen by Lucy Clarke.


Product details:
Publisher: HarperCollins.
Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: July 30th 2015.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.



Best friends since their teens, Sarah and Isla share secrets, summers and sons of the same age, or at least they did until Isla’s son Marley went missing at sea seven years ago.  Through the tragedy, Sarah and Isla’s friendship remained intact and, after a time, life went back to something close to normal.  But things are about to change.  This year, on the anniversary of Marley’s disappearance, Sarah’s son Jacob vanishes without a trace. Being a mother means everything to Sarah, but lately her relationship with her son hasn’t been so great. Is Jacob just another runaway teen on the outs with his mum? Or is there something more sinister at play? And why isn’t Sarah telling the truth of the argument she and Jacob had the night before he disappeared? 

Lucy Clarke writes a great beach read, and while this one doesn’t contain the exotic locales of her earlier books, it may just be my favourite book of hers to date, with twist after twist to keep me guessing, even after I thought I had things all figured out.  Female friendships are complex things, and let me tell you, Sarah and Isla share a friendship that is more complex than most. No spoilers, but let’s just say I don’t really know how these two managed to stay such firm friends through the years, after all that happened between them.  Some things just can’t be forgiven, you know? And one of these friends certainly crosses that line at one point.

The central mystery of Jacob’s disappearance is ultimately compelling, if a bit of a slow burn that takes time to gather pace, with chapters detailing past summers, including the events that led to the day when everything changed.  My favourite aspect of Last Seen was the friendship between Sarah and Isla.  You know how sometimes you meet people and they are so opposite, so different in every way, that you wonder how they ever became friends? Well, that’s these two. I find that this kind of friendship is one most often formed in childhood or adolescence, which is the case here. Friends found later in life usually have a lot more in common than free-spirited Isla who travels the world on a whim and uptight Sarah, who would rather be at home doing the hoovering.  When we meet them, Sarah and Isla’s friendship is a relic of the past, held together only by the memories they share. Oh, and then there’s that little thing called guilt. And all the secrets that are about to come spilling out right about now.  

Another winner from Lucy Clarke, Last Seen is a compelling tale of friendship, secrets, motherhood and lies that will keep you guessing right till the very end. This is one to add to your beach bag, for sure!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.




Product details:
Publisher:  Atria Books.
Hardcover, 400 pages.
Release date: June 13th 2017.
Rating: 4½  out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.



Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo married seven times – but which of her husbands was her one true love?

That’s the question rookie reporter Monique Grant is determined to ask when she’s invited to interview an ageing Evelyn at her plush apartment on the Upper East Side.  Why has notoriously private Evelyn decided to talk now after years of silence? And why has she chosen Monique for the job?  Nobody knows the answer to that apart from Evelyn herself– and she’s a lady who knows how to keep a secret.  With her own love life in ruins, recently separated Monique is determined to get the scoop on some vintage Hollywood scandal, and earn a promotion in the process. However, what Monique discovers during her conversations with Evelyn, is more shocking than she ever could have imagined.

I just adore Old Hollywood, don’t you? All that glamour, all those secrets, all that scandal and, unlike the mostly non-descript leading men of today, the leading men back then were so dashing, so handsome!  Of course, Old Hollywood wasn’t all fun and games.  Rather, it was a land of smoke and mirrors, where names and faces were routinely changed, humble backgrounds were re-written, relationships were often for publicity purposes, secrets were kept for a price and scandals were swept under the carpet by all-powerful studio fixers.  Speaking of which, just last night I watched a documentary on closeted actors in the Hollywood of the 1950’s, when to be openly gay was guaranteed career-ending.   The documentary is Tab Hunter Confidential. It’s on Netflix.

Anyway, back to Evelyn Hugo, born Evelyn Herrera in humble Hell’s Kitchen beginnings, who dyed her locks blonde in order to downplay her Cuban heritage, and traded her virtue for a one-way ticket to Hollywood.  I must say that Taylor Jenkins Reid does such a great job in constructing the character of Evelyn Hugo that this book reads like the best Hollywood biography ever written – even though its subject is entirely fictional. That said, Evelyn’s life and looks bear a resemblance to a number of Old Hollywood actresses. In her background and heritage, she resembles Rita Hayworth. She has the ruthless ambition and drive of Joan Crawford,  while she also shares the sultry good looks of Lauren Bacall, the curves of Marilyn Monroe and, of course, the multiple marriages of Elizabeth Taylor.

It’s all good fun watching as Evelyn rises to the top of her Hollywood game, leaving a trail of leading men in her wake.  It’s a whirlwind of dresses and parties and Oscar glamour, for sure. Then, there’s the price that has to be paid for that level of fame.  At a time when Hollywood actresses were not born, but made by moguls with money in mind, one wrong move could send your whole world crashing down. As Monique Grant is about to find out, Evelyn Hugo knows not only about the price of fame, she knows all about the price of secrets too.

Immersive, engaging and superbly well-written, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favourite reads of summer 2017 and a must-read for fans of Old Hollywood.  If you loved Ryan Murphy’s Feud earlier this year – then you will love this!


Hungry for even more Old Hollywood Scandal? Check out You Must Remember This, a podcast about the often-scandalous lives of the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.


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